Book Title Copyrights – Long Story Short

From Writer’s Digest:

Much like names, slogans and ideas, titles are not protected by U.S. copyright laws (which is why so many books have the same titles). To qualify for copyright protection, a work needs to possess “a significant amount of original expression”—and while “a significant amount of original expression” isn’t fully defined by hard-and-fast rules, the courts have ruled that expressions as short as book titles do not qualify.

Which, I guess, is why two books featuring short form comic adaptations of famous books with the same title can be released within months of each other.

above: Long Story Short by Lisa Brown (April 2020); Long Story Short by Mr. Fish (July 2020)

Continuing from Writer’s Digest:

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office states that a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others. So once a book becomes successful enough to be considered a recognizable brand, it could be eligible for trademark protection.

Think of it this way: If your book is tentatively titled One Moment in Time—a general phrase that really doesn’t separate it from the pack—and another book shares that name, you’ll likely be OK. But if you were planning to title your thriller The Da Vinci Code—a specific title associated with a bestselling series—you’d better make other arrangements.

Since neither the Long Story Short comic panel nor the Long Story Short picture book were best sellers they could both be titles for printed material in October 2019?


Once again the Writer’s Digest explanation:

As for whether or not it’s a good idea to go with a title that’s already been used—and in the same genre, no less—that’s a question best suited for your editor. However, if you have other title ideas that aren’t already in use, I’d recommend considering a change—if only to alleviate confusion in the marketplace down the road.

“Long Story Short” is a popular book title, I’m just surprised by its use being shared in the same genre.

Conceivably “pearls before swine,” for better or for worse,” “pickles,” “for heaven’s sake,” “out on a limb,” “bound and gagged,” and other historically well-known phrases and words can be used for comic books by other than those cartoonists we associate with those titles? Or, based on popularity, some could and some couldn’t get away with it?




3 thoughts on “Book Title Copyrights – Long Story Short

  1. Joseph Heller’s /Catch-22/ was originally /Catch-18/ but the title was changed because Leon Uris’ /Mila 18/ came out earlier the same year; I suspect this was a marketing, rather than a legal, decision.

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